Welcome to Refinery29's Why I Do It, a series where we ask inspirational, successful people 29 questions about what fuels them on and off the clock. Because, let's face it: life is about so much more than chasing inbox zero.
Elle Mills has been creating original video content since she was just eight years old, and has made a career for herself as a YouTuber, writer, and director. She won the Shorty Award for Breakout YouTuber in 2018 and has amassed almost 3.5 million followers across her platforms. Now, the 24-year-old is writing and directing her own films — and even a recent music video — with a focus on sharing LGBTQ+ stories. Her narrative directorial debut, a romantic short film called REPLY, will be available on Creator+ on November 10.
What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up? Stretch in bed! And then lie there for another 30 minutes to process. I love a slow morning.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed? I've been watching a lot of chiropractor videos to end the night recently... lol!
Early bird or night owl? I’m primarily an early bird, but I go through night owl phases when I'm in editing mode.
How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? Just one! I'm known for my speedy email responses. I hate having notifications.
Iced coffee or hot coffee? Iced always! I hate hot drinks in general. I don't like burning my tongue.
What’s your favorite thing that you keep on your desk or work space? Always a glass of water, and my notebook and pen to write down ideas and reminders.
When was the last time you felt like a success? The release of my short film REPLY has me feeling pretty good lately.
What do you do on those days when you don’t feel that confident? Ideally, I take it easy and hang out with the people I love most. I try and make a cute day out of it — a good meal with some good company always puts me in a better mood.
What’s one thing you do every day, without fail? Sigh. Way too much.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? A friend of mine once said, "Not everyone deserves your vulnerability." And it really stuck with me. I quote it a lot.
What’s your least-favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? My entire life, I've always hated when people suggest having a back-up plan to things. I understand that it comes from a good place, but the stubborn and determined parts of myself resent hearing it. Why come up with a back-up plan when you could focus on all the ways you could make plan A your reality instead?
Who inspires you the most? All of my friends. I consciously only surround myself with people who inspire me, and they all do so in different ways.
Who, if anyone, do you try to emulate? I don't think I try to emulate anyone. The older I get, the more I discover who I really am, and I love that. I just try to be the most authentic version of myself I can be.
What’s something people ask you for advice about often? It's often career-related — things like how to pursue a creative passion, which I love talking to people about.
What’s a piece of advice you felt proud to give? I feel very passionate about passion. I have a lot of family and friends who want a creative career they're passionate about and I'm always pushing them to take charge of their future. If you want it for yourself, you have to stop at nothing to make it happen. And I'm not saying it's easy, but a switch has to go off in your head saying, you simply won't accept any other kind of future for yourself. We all only have one life, so why not try your absolute hardest to make it a dream one.
What is your most-used app on your phone? FaceTime!
Where do you put your phone while you’re sleeping? On my bedside table to charge.
What do you do when you feel yourself burning out? I allow myself to take a break because there's no use in pushing through it. It's only going to make it worse. With that being said, I love feeling productive and sometimes feel guilty taking breaks. When that happens, I try to redirect my focus to working on things outside of the area I'm feeling burnt out in. For example, if I'm feeling burnt out with creative work, I'll spend time working on house tasks instead.
Where are you, compared to where you thought you’d be at 12 years old? It feels slightly uncomfortable to say out loud, but I think 12-year-old me would be very proud. I don't think she could've even dreamed of the life I'm living. It makes me feel extremely grateful.
If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? I don't know because I feel like I'm actively changing the things I want to change about it. I'm moving my career in a new direction by diving into writing and directing, and I'm really excited by it.
What’s been your biggest pieces of support, helping you get where you are? My friends and family definitely. I've been lucky to be surrounded by kind-hearted people who love me unconditionally and encourage me to be the best version of myself. I love them all and would be nothing without them.
What do you do to start your work day? Sip on a cold brew to wake myself up! But I usually really get going once I settle down in my office.
What do you do to end your work day? Leave my office! I’ve been so happy to have my workplace separate from my bedroom this past year. It definitely helps in turning my work brain off.
What’s the last photo in your favorites folder on your phone? A little mirror selfie moment with the REPLY poster!
What’s the last song you listened to? “Let's Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire! I currently feel like I'm in the "getting shit done" montage of a movie haha.
If you could go back and do one thing differently in your career path, what would it be? Nothing. I've learned and grown so much from the mistakes I've made. I'd do them all again.